A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“No man, I suppose, is tempted to every sin. It so happens that the impulse which makes men gamble has been left out of my make-up; and, no doubt, I pay for this by the lacking of some good impulse of which it is the excess or perversion (p. xii).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

There is an old adage that says, “Most weaknesses are exaggerated strengths.” I think that is very similar to what C.S. Lewis is saying here. If we do not understand the principle being explained here, then our battle with sin will result in excessive discouragement and self-abasement.

Let’s start with a few illustrations of this principle.

Sin: Harsh Anger
Good Impulse: Willingness to confidently and clearly stand for “truth” or what is “right”
Result of Absence: Being unduly influenced by popular opinion

Sin: People-pleasing
Good Impulse: High levels of compassion, loyalty, and the ability to empathize with other’s suffering
Result of Absence: Self-centeredness with the inability to see things from others’ perspective

These are only two possible examples. Each could have other possible good impulses at their root and other possible results of their absence. But, hopefully, you can begin to see the point that C.S. Lewis was illustrating.

I would like to draw two points of application.  The first applies to our personal battle with sin and the resulting discouragement. The second applies to our expression of leadership, particularly instructing during discipline, as parents.

First, after we sin we should not only look for our “temptation triggers” but also the strengths or even spiritual gifts that were distorted as we sinned. What aspect of my person, that God intended for good, did Satan use to blind me to the sin I was committing.  For example, what parent has not been blinded by their love and dreams for their child (good gift from God) and from that was excessive in their words during discipline (harsh, guilt trip, slippery slope arguments, personalizing, martyr speech, too long – all sinful). When we see this, our battle with sin becomes an effort to purify the good desire or ability that God has given us; rather than a self-abasing effort to eliminate something that winds up discouraging our efforts to keep trying.

Second, we should have this same mindset when we instruct our children during discipline (this assumes that we are pairing instruction with each occurrence of discipline – hint, hint). During discipline we should regularly emphasize the strength (personality, character, ability) that was revealed, but distorted in the child’s disobedience. Are they a leader, strong-willed, creative, loyal, socially adept, a good delegater, or expressive? In the course of discipline our message is not simply, “What you did was bad and you should never do that again,” but also, “I saw something good God put in you during that disobedience and I am disciplining you to help you use that good thing as God intended.” We might even pray for our children after discipline – not just that they would be obedient in the future, but that God would bless the gifts and abilities He has given our children and use them to do great things.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Character” post which address other facets of this subject.